Tag Archives: beautiful

Winchester

9 Apr

Winchester in the SpringImage

Advertisements

Bread in the house

28 Mar

I have ALWAYS wanted to make bread. It’s always fascinated me, including its theological implications. But I’ve never made it. Ever.

So yours truly got a little desperate tonight for bread and after four trips of shopping and four times of forgetting bread, and one tub of this new fantastic idea – I decided to google for ‘bread easy quick’ and make variations from what I had in my cupboard.

 

I am pretty excited. Humour me. 

 

Here it is. My first ever bread:

 

 

It is definitely not looking like a ball of dough. But I walked out of the kitchen thinking in my odd way that it is probably like marriage.

However sloppy and floppy my bread is, I’ll have it and love it.

Seriously, this is what I was thinking between kitchen and bedroom. Analogy win.

 

So 30 minutes later (this whole bread recipe took less than 40 minutes), here is the finished product:

 

AND IT IS SCRUMPTIOUS, for a hungry me.

Undiluted breathing

28 Mar

I went to set up coffee at work today and it was quiet – no stretching out to meet and greet and welcome a new person.

But I offered to clean up the coffee afterwards. This morning there was some confusion and no one knew who was setting up, so instead everyone from our section of the college turned up to set it up. Or so it seemed.

It is a beautiful summer’s day today – despite it being spring – as if Summer couldn’t wait and asked for a house swap with Spring for half a week. So while Summer’s in residence, the British become colourful and ridiculously happy. They forget about these days of sunshine for the rest of the year. Sun?! Really?

But when she’s here, suddenly there is free time in the middle of a work day. Suddenly they want to smile at you even through your sunglasses. Suddenly it’s like someone took a sharp, serrated meat knife and scored through a cloud sheet in front of you and of them. And the awkward discovery of life just in front of you that you hadn’t noticed happens. Awkward but happy. You smile.

But inside the Wycliffe College staff room, there wasn’t a terrible hurry to rip any sheets apart.

And as I cleared away the dishes, an older gentleman – I’d met him before and recognised his friendly, unashamed Northern brogue – put his hand on my back while the last people left. Unusual in an Oxford college at a staff rendez-vous, but er I am not immune to charm…

He thanked me for helping clear up. Everyone seemed quite surprised and amusingly thankful at someone doing it off the rota – but the only other place I’ve ‘done’ coffee or tea for a group is at church. And there I’m not thinking about a rota… usually only about how to hide my face from socialising when I need to. *Confession alert. Memo for later*

QED Once I’m there, I love ‘doing’ coffee or tea. It hides your face almost as much as leading worship or standing up front does. *Definitely memo for later*

“And if you’re wondering why we’re all a bit quiet today,” he said…

I hadn’t been wondering. I’d noticed, that’s all. But I straightened up from the coffee pots.

“If you’re wondering why we’re all a bit quiet today, it’s because an ex-student is having a still-born this morning.”  

And there was community and love. Ripped open cloud sheets by the sun, with healing in his wings.

She had been a student and had worked there. Her mother had flown from the US to be with her when she’d heard what was happening.

There were a few things that crossed my mind. That I wanted the ‘still-born’ to be called a child or a little girl or boy. That I wanted to tell him to go and visit if he needed to – the coffee pots and work would survive. But he told me people had gone, and more people would go. And I asked for her name and I wanted to pray for her.

I cannot imagine the years of pain, of unfinished story that an unborn or a still-born child must bring. About as many years of joy as he or she does, I suspect, knowing if you do that they live in the arms of a bigger, greater Parent than we will ever be.

I’ve admired mothers and fathers who have loved their children through life and death. I am in awe of them when they see that joy – I don’t know if I would be able to.

In my mind, I have this picture. The babe in the womb takes oxygen from the bloodstream. She’s not ready yet for O2 straight. We’re not ready yet for the physical presence and glory of God straight. Not all the time anyway. But then those babies are, those people are. They’re breathing it in already and to us, it must bring joy in the rain.

 

Easter is not far.

Who moved my grace?

10 Jan

I just got asked (well, in a virtual sense)… Okay, okay, I’m asking myself to answer this question. Do I have sensitive nerves?

Yes. I do not forget hurt easily. I remember how one birthday, someone said ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter what you want’ to me. It was my birthday. I’d worked myself up to a sense of entitlement. The words still hurt. Efforts that people make for my birthday – beautiful, loving efforts by the many people who love me even when they are several countries away – still bring up a lump in my throat. Efforts the same person who said that makes – they’ve forgotten – still bring a heavy lump.

I remember a designated ‘best friend’ in primary school who I am still in touch with and excited to see on the rare, random occasion. As we walked up the main, rather grandiose staircase at school, she turned down towards me and said we weren’t friends anymore because she wanted to be friends with someone else.

Ever since then I have intense social awareness. One of my friends called me ‘popular’ and I wanted to laugh my guts out. If I don’t get an inside joke, if I stand a little outside a circle – these are very few times. People are usually incredibly gracious even in their hardest times…

But I am intensely aware. Intensely analytical. And always overly conscious never to leave someone out. It doesn’t matter if I’m the only one explaining, and it doesn’t matter if the conversation has moved on – I’ll probably make the time to explain it to you. I’m not saying I’m that nice. Possibly OCD? 🙂

Because here’s the thing – my sensitive nerve is trust. Any slight erosion of it remains with me a long time. Unless it is directly addressed, I find it hard to forget.

And yet do I not serve a God who pours out his love into my heart? Who forgives over and over, and then also trusts me  to continue to fulfil his vision, do what he entrusted me with in the first place or more? I receive this grace time after time. And – as Angela reminds me – do I not set my hope fully on the grace that will be brought to me through the revealing of him? It’s there. Everyday. If I can just remember to reach across my unwieldy self to hold it in open hands…

And with two, they covered their eyes…

21 Apr

Someone asked me why I cried at church. But I expect to cry, so I didn’t know the answer.

Because beauty breaks your heart. You look, at the beauty that even angels fear, you love, you sense the presence of Someone infinitely bigger than you, yet infinitely gentle, and then, as the hairs on your neck begin to re-sensitise, you know His eyes are on you. That’s all. He is just… looking at you.

And He’s not looking at anyone else. And the breakage happens – just as you look back.

He takes my defenses down. Every time.

In the ministry, I think, God allows you the overwhelming honour of looking with Him. As you see what He sees, as you see the broken roads those tattered sandals have trod, or the memories of day-long trips for fatal water that those young eyes hold, or the suspicion of a life that has never known an unbroken promise, or the shocked immunity of your child who learns that others have died for rice… and as you look back and see the reflections glinting in His steady eyes, the breakage happens.

But it is only there, as I sit in that presence, as I let myself look into those eyes, and trace the shape of its shadows and stories and suffering and grace, that love hits me – and the impact barrels through my chest, past my diaphragm into the world that I saw with his eyes.

Every time someone weeps out of less than joy, every time a friend has sold their dignity, every time someone hates and knows it, every one someone cannot shrug away the sin, I must sit and I must look into those eyes. For the beauty to break through the calluses.

In the reflections, the stories make sense.

Ecce, Dominus.

Today, my heart was broken by this

Fighting for you

19 Mar

Hey you!

You are worth fighting for. Yes… you.

Has anyone ever given up on you? Have you given up on yourself? Ever had a conversation where someone simply throws their arms up in the air, and walks away? Have you been that person to walk away? Maybe you’ve even forgotten these moments… maybe you didn’t even think they were giving up on you, because they never even tried.

Were you that kid at school whom no one bothered to ask how his college applications were going? Or sports scholarship? Or dance auditions? Did they assume you weren’t trying? There is that little twinge every time someone passes over you, refuses to talk to you – has nothing to say… to you. Are you the one no-one ever fought for?

Have you been the friend whom I stopped talking to? The friend whose conversations were getting so hard I didn’t want to try? Or were you the friend who hated my humour so much, you never called back? Or the friend who never returned my texts because life got busy? Were you the friend I grabbed hold of once school was over for that last crazy summer, but then forgot about as soon as I found different friends? That friend who stayed in grad school while I got a job and. neither of us. even. tried?

Sometimes we look in the mirror and we think ‘ordinary’. We look out of our window in the mornings and there’s hardly any excitement we notice in our hearts and our spirits. But it’s wrong because there is this wonderful love story that’s been brewing in our lives since forever. And we slip past it because we aren’t looking at his face. Imagine that?

Imagine this.

Someone did stick around and wait for forever – just so he could have you. Someone never gave up on you, they never stopped trying – in fact, you weren’t even visibly in the picture when he started.

Someone is urging you to try, get up, off of the floor. Dust off the powder, gather your bags – it’s time. He is watching for you, watching out for you all the time. His eyes never leave you – they can’t. He’s never let you go, and he longs to hear you. And he’s always listening, always caring, always.

He is fighting for you. I come to the end of my strength, and I think: He’s never going to let go. Really. He wants me that much. He will

keep us from falling,

present us perfect before his throne with overflowing happiness,

show us his glory…

He will. We don’t even have to fight – he’s done it all.

Ever been in that moment of worship, lost in just how breath-taking he is?

Imagine this, just imagine – God looks at you when you’re with him, and he goes W-O-W. He really thinks you are beautiful.

See him. See yourself.

Jonah Chronicles

21 Feb

So the last time I revisited Jonah Bar-Amittai, he was running away from God in fear. If you missed that, here it is

Get this: Not fear that he was inadequate and wouldn’t match up, that he would not be able to do what God had called him to do. No. Fear, instead, that he would. That God would do exactly as He had promised and it would be too hard for him to confront. He also feared that God would be who He is.

He knew God and he knew himself too – pretty darn well, I’d say, seeing how the story turned out! Check out this part in particular. Isn’t that an amazing story?

I know what Jonah’s about, you know… I am the queen of non-confrontational. I hate the conversations where I have to talk about something that’s not right. I especially hate it when I’m not actually doing the wrong thing. Not because I haven’t messed up – I always have, and, eeerrrrmmm, I don’t care to elaborate on that point just right now :-o! But sometimes I do believe God uses you from the periphery of a situation to speak into it, to intervene.

Imagine this. If you’re in a research team, and you know that one of your colleagues is manipulating data specifically recorded by another of your colleagues, what would you do? That’s not so bad. Let’s step it up a bit. Two friends of yours in a teetering relationship and you know that they are hurting each other. And you know it isn’t of God.

Let’s up the ante a bit more, shall we? Your accountability partner with whom you share a totally equal relationship is on the brink of something actually unbiblical. Usually, with my friend, my contributions are along the lines of ‘Do you think that you are acting in accordance with what you believe the Bible to be saying?’ – ‘Well, then, good on ya!’ *cringes* I guess you pick the people you are accountable to… Mine is amazing, beautiful and tells me what’s wrong without me even feeling the tiniest twinge of smallness or pain. Ha – let’s see who tops that 😉 *I jest.* And I would never feel the need to say that to her – I am certain. Yet, what if I did? I do know there was one friend I did feel I had to say something to, when she was asking advice and expecting a certain response from me – one I couldn’t give if I was to truly reflect my feelings on honouring God in the situation.

I know what I wanted to say was the cop-out line.

Then there was that other time when I had to – just had to – tell a good friend and housemate I really felt from God for her. We’d been discussing a relationship she was struggling with for a long time. We knew from the start that there things that did not honour God in it. And still, she and I were both tempted to sigh and wonder how beautifully romantic it would be if certain things were straightened out. Yet in prayer, I knew that ignoring things that had happened already would not be putting God first. It would be compromising on what she was waiting on God to prove Himself faithful about.

So… I did tell her. After feeling heavy and compelled one morning, I did. I huddled in my cold Oxford room with only glass doors and curtains to keep it insulated. And I waited for her to put the kettle on for her breakfast. I could hear the kitchen perfectly, from the adjacent room. And I wondered what to say to her.

I padded out in the huge, fluffy kermit flip-flops I’d adopted and fumbled through what I’d been feeling. I had respect for both of them but I had to get this out. I was pretty scared. But God made another of his miracles that morning. I think coincidences are designed.

But that is a story for another Jonah day.

For today, in what ways are you running away from God’s will for your life?

I ask this because I have been running too.

See… Jeremiah said ‘but‘, Moses said ‘but‘, Jonah definitely said ‘but’.

If you know you have said ‘but’ more times than you care to remember hurting him, then I think you want to experience this.

Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth”. Jer 1:9

What an incredibly intimate, evocative picture… The Father looking into His child’s troubled face, full of her awareness of her inadequacy and worthlessness. And God’s first impulse is to reach out and gently stop those words that belittle His beloved. And give you His precious, infinite words instead.

I know that God has a specific purpose for you. A calling that only you can fulfill. A place for you to speak into. Words that only you can say. And they aren’t your words – they are His. He can fill those lips that are trembling with tears with the song He wrote.

And then if you but let Him, He’ll hold you and sing softly over you, hold those broken pieces back together.

The LORD your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing. Zeph 3:17

Whatever you’re afraid to confront, let Him hold you. Like Jonah, we have a God who cares passionately enough to be persistent.

I know that God has a purpose for you. It may not be comfortable at all.

But

it will

be

God.

God is beautiful – Part 2

2 Feb

This is Part 2 of the story of beautiful God.

Lord, Lord, but how?! How shall I come into Thy presence, how shall I let go of my sin? How can I forget the things I’ve done, the things I’ve omitted to do?! Oh God, how!

And as you’re crying into the vacant space before you, knowing that you can never measure up, never love Him as much and give Him what you should be giving Him… This is what He’s saying as He holds you folded into His side:

Father, she is beautiful and she is Mine. Because of my blood, and my sacrifice. Look at her, Father! Isn’t she beautiful?! And she is Mine.

It’s almost as if He’s repeating that line over and over with wonder – and until you believe it.

Beloved, you are His. Unequivocally, unquestionably, HIS. I wanted to post this here. Can you believe this verse?

Now to Him who is able to keep me (!) from stumbling,

and to present me faultless (!!) before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,

To God our Saviour

Who alone is wise

Be glory and majesty,

dominion and power,

both now and forever.AMEN!

(Jude 24, 25; NKJV)

God is beautiful – Part 1

2 Feb

I think I should re-name this blog ‘God is beautiful’. After all the sifting and the raking, after the ploughing and the draining, after everything is stripped away from me, and I have nothing left but God’s voice to hear, as I stare into my hands… this is what I will be left with:

God

is

beautiful.

There is nothing higher or deeper than His amazing love for you, and His persistence in saving you from your own fears and distractions. Nothing. And when you ask Him how He can forgive so much, He says to you ‘Forgive what?’.

Your sins I will remember no more.

There is no way that I can ever deserve that love. Today, as I was sitting in my chair at work, I asked Him how I could ever be worthy of His calling.

I cannot. But He makes me beautiful because His beauty is sufficient.

He is able to keep me from stumbling, even stumbling, and to present me – me! – faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.

And there is nothing to indicate it is only when the body has been stripped off. Not just when we think we’re not human any more and we are ethereal beings in some kind of new dimension… No, it is now.

Worship him. There is nothing else to do.

%d bloggers like this: